Week 4: Meter & Rhyme




  1. Practice identifying the metric pattern for the following hymn titles:
    1. Love divine, all loves excelling
       /    ×   /     ×    /   ×   /   ×
       Love di-vine, all loves ex-cel-ling
    2. Great is thy faithfulness, O God my father
       /     ×   ×    /    ×   ×    /  ×  ×  /   ×
       Great is thy faith-ful-ness, O God my fa-ther
    3. A mighty fortress is our God
       ×   /   ×  /    ×   /   ×   /
       A might-y for-tress is our God
    4. There’s a song in the air, there’s a star in the sky
       ×       ×  /   ×   ×   /      ×    ×  /   ×   ×   /
       There's a song in the air, there's a star in the sky

Lord, You Were Rich Beyond All Splendor

Text: Frank Houghton (1894–1972), 1937

Tune: Traditional French

  1. In many ways, this is a Christmas hymn without the usual trappings we find in a lot of other traditional Christmas carols - angels, shepherds, starlight, etc. Do you think that this takes anything away from the hymn? Or do you wish other Christmas songs were similarly stripped down?

    • There are still a couple overt Christmas references in the text
      • Verse 1 talks about the “stable floor”
      • Originally in verse 1, “leaving your throne in glad surrender” was “thrones for a manger didst surrender”
    • In some ways, the lack of Christmas-ness gives it a wider scope
      • The text puts the incarnation in context as part of God’s “eternal plan”
      • Emmanuel not only “makes us” but “keeps us pure and true” – an ongoing process!
    • The emphasis is on “love”, mentioned in every verse, which is in a way larger than just Christmas
  2. Determine the meter for this hymn. Do you notice anything interesting? Does the structure of the hymn reinforce the text in any way?

    • The meter here looks like this:
/ × ×  / ×  / ×  / ×
/ × ×  / ×  / ×  /
- While it's not unheard of to mix duple and triple feet, it's definitely less common than having all the same type
- Although it makes the text sound a little stilted if read straight, it matches well with the tune
	- The syncopated tune plus the unbalanced text adds enough interest without feeling forced or unnatural
- The repetition of the first two lines again at the end of each verse makes the simple text feel more expansive
- Plus, the repetition of lines reinforces the common phrase "beyond all" in every verse as well as the common theme of "love"


Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing

Text: Robert Robinson (1735–1790), 1757

Tune: Traditional American, 1813

  1. Robinson uses a number of biblical images spread throughout the text. Which do you recognize and what do they add to the message of the hymn?

    • “Streams of mercy” is reminiscent of Zechariah 13:1
      • This is a prophecy regarding the coming of the Messiah, opening a cleansing fountain for Jerusalem
    • “Flaming tongues” is appropriate for Pentecost, when the disciples encounter the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire
      • “Tongues” here is a double meaning, connecting Pentecost with literal tongues singing
      • The imagery is also similar to the praises sung in Revelation
    • “Ebenezer” (“stone of help” in Hebrew) comes from 1 Samuel 7:12, where God helped Israel defeat the Philistines.
      • Serves as a reminder of the good things God has done, that he will remain faithful in the future
      • Also a reminder of our own powerlessness, as the Israelites were unable to reach victory on their own
    • “Wandering from the fold” pictures God as our shepherd (see Psalm 23)
    • “My heart, O take and seal it” lends itself to a number of interpretations
      • Song of Solomon 8:6 says “set me as a seal upon your heart”, stressing the permanent ever-present nature of love
      • Seals also preserve the contents they protect, here asking for safe-keeping until the speaker reaches the “courts above”
      • Finally, a seal indicates ownership and authority, as when a king would press his signet ring in a wax seal on official decrees
        • This can signify Christ’s authority over our own hearts and lives, claiming them as his own
        • It also “sets us apart” and marks us as his chosen people
  2. Look at the use of rhyme in the text, both true rhyme and slant rhymes. Does the inclusion of “false” rhymes hurt the text at all? Also consider the original text compared to its “modern” version - why do you think sections of verses 2, 3, and 5 are routinely omitted?

    • The rhyme scheme here is ABAB CDCD
    • The slant rhymes appear at the beginning rather than end of verses (with the possible exception of “God” / “blood”)
      • This maintains the feeling of “closure” given by true rhymes
    • The omitted lines in verse 2-3 have some borderline questionable theology
      • Phrases like “released from flesh and sin”, “death shall loose me” have some Gnostic overtones
      • The implication here is that flesh = bad and spirit = good, and seems to deny a bodily resurrection
    • The last verse is similar in theme but without the Gnostic tendencies
      • Still, the imagery in “blood-washed linen” doesn’t fit as well with the rest of the hymn